State by state

California

Iraq war veteran Eric Egland this week became the first Republican to launch an official primary campaign against Rep. John Doolittle (R). The move came just days after Doolittle’s 2006 primary challenger announced an exploratory committee for the race.

An Air Force reservist, Egland is a first-time political candidate. President Bush recently praised his military service in a speech.

Doolittle is enmeshed in a federal investigation surrounding his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In April, the FBI raided Doolittle’s California home.

Mike Holmes, a former mayor of Auburn who announced an exploratory committee last week, took 33 percent against Doolittle last year in a head-to-head primary.

— Aaron Blake



Minnesota

Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) top Democratic challengers have gained ground in recent months, but the freshman retains a modest lead over all of them, according to a poll released this week by SurveyUSA.

Coleman beats comedian Al Franken and attorney Mike Ciresi by seven and six points, respectively. He leads Franken 49–42 and Ciresi 48–42.

Both Democratic front-runners trailed Coleman by more than 20 points when the same poll was conducted five months ago and also in a Minnesota Public Radio poll conducted in May.

Franken has garnered much attention due to his celebrity and fundraising prowess — he raised nearly $2 million in the second quarter — but Ciresi has stuck with him in the polls.

A third Democrat, environmental activist Jim Cohen, holds Coleman to a similar 49 percent clip but trails Franken and Ciresi with 37 percent in a head-to-head match-up.

Coleman holds an advantage over all three candidates among independent voters and party-switchers. There are more Democrats who support Coleman than Republicans who support any of the three Democratic candidates. No Democrat pulls more than 6 percent of GOP voters.

The poll was conducted last week among 628 registered voters and released Monday. It did not survey several other Democratic candidates, including Nobel laureate Peter Agre and Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

— A.B.



Nebraska

Financial adviser Pat Flynn became the latest Republican to join the Senate race in Nebraska, giving Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) another potential primary challenger, according to The Omaha World-Herald.

Flynn has made clear that his Christian faith will be a centerpiece of his campaign.

Hagel has yet to announce whether he will run for reelection or whether he will run for the presidency.

State Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) is already in the race, and others including former Rep. Hal Daub (R), former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D), Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey (D) and 2006 congressional candidate Scott Kleeb (D) are also weighing bids. Businessman Tony Raimondo (R) has an exploratory committee but has said he will step aside if Hagel runs for reelection.

— A.B.



Oregon


Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) vowed to shake up Washington on Wednesday as he announced the formal launch of his campaign against Sen. Gordon Smith (R).

“I’m running for U.S. Senate because I believe we need to make some big changes in our country,” Merkley said in a letter to supporters. “And I believe George Bush and Gordon Smith are leading us in the wrong direction,”

The five-term member of the Oregon House is the son of a mill worker and mechanic. He was elected Speaker in January after Democrats reclaimed the legislative majority in the state.

Merkley said he would run a grassroots campaign that speaks to the average Oregonian. He pledged to work with Sen. Ron Wyden (D) to bring troops home from Iraq, promote clean energy, combat climate change and make healthcare universal.

He cited his “passion for tax fairness, public education and for helping ordinary, everyday Oregonians achieve their aspirations,” as he asked for donations to counter “Gordon Smith and his special-interest friends.”

Former Justice Department attorney Steve Novick, the first Democrat in the race, said he looks “forward to an inspired primary where each of us makes our case for why we must replace Gordon Smith and presents our respective visions for Oregon and America.”

— Kara Oppenheim